Keeping an eye on things!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fairy Eggs and Bumble Foot

Sounds like a title to a fairy tale doesn't it? "The Adventures of Fairy Eggs and Bumble Foot!". These two words however, are not character names, rather names of two phenomenons that occur when you raise chickens as long as I have.

Let's start with "Fairy Eggs". These tiny wonders are rare in appearance and occur when something has disturbed the reproductive cycle of a hen. They simply indicate she did not have time to produce a yolk before her body deposited the egg, so voila! An egg the size of a playing marble. It has been several years since I found a fairy egg so this was a special surprise yesterday. Notice the calcium deposits on the large blue egg next to it? That is another anomaly that occurs when a chicken does not absorb all of the calcium she is getting, so it is deposited in tiny bumps on her eggs. This generally occurs in older hens and can be a sign of slow reproduction, over eating or water shortage. In this hen's case, it is probably water. She tends to hang out in the coop even when there is a pond within 20' of her front door. Silly girl.

Now onto Bumblefoot. Technically the name is ulcerative pododermatitis, but 99.9% of chicken people call it Bumblefoot. This term can strike fear in even the most seasoned chicken herder, and is a condition that can prove fatal if not treated immediately. In 20+ years of chicken raising we have had exactly TWO hens with Bumblefoot. If you figure we have seen over 400 birds grow to maturity on this farm, that's pretty good odds. The first case was found before the wound became serious and was easily soaked out. (More on that in a minute). This my peeps is a picture of what the newest case looked like. Warning, it's a little bit gross.

The picture on the left is the wound after it had been cleaned and the "corns" removed. Sorry for not getting a before picture, (I was holding a chicken) but imagine a sliver in your finger that becomes infected. A giant pus pocket forms around it, swelling your finger up until the only relief is to dig that bugger out of there. You now have a visual idea of what this hen was suffering with. Most commonly, Bumblefoot occurs when a scratch or puncture on a bird's foot becomes infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.  This bacteria is found frequently in the environment, and seldom is it something you can determine and eliminate from the coop (although good sanitation is always a good idea!). However, this bacteria can even cause Bumblefoot in birds when there has been no particular injury, if their skin gets irritated enough to let the infection take hold. For instance if a bird roosts on a wire or rough-hewn log, the resulting abrasion could cause the bacteria to grow

As I mentioned earlier, the first hen to show signs of Bumblefoot was limping slightly and when I tipped her upside down to check her feet I noticed the bottom of one was swelling and red in appearance, with a small white dot in the center of the "pocket". It was a lucky catch and after a good epsom salt soaking the dot, redness and swelling went away. This 2nd hen was not so lucky. While you generally see Bumblefoot on the bottom of a chicken's foot, in Goose-Goose's case it was found on the side of her toe.  The "corns" that you see on the paper towel are hard deposits that form under the skin and cause great discomfort to the bird as she walks on it.   

Chickens have amazing pain receptors and healing abilities. Unless you spend countless hours with your birds and know their sounds and mannerisms, you will probably not know if they are injured, sick or hurting until it is too late. They show no outward signs of minor pain. This girl was limping a little so I scooped her up to see if she had a thorn or a rock wedged between her toes. Good thing I did. The picture on the left was just before I performed her surgery and as you see her eyes are bright, she is alert, her comb is deep red and she appears totally healthy. If she had been perched on her log or sitting on a nest I would not have given her health a second thought. The picture on the right was 5 minutes after surgery. Still no signs of pain, just hunger. The toe is bandaged and thoroughly coated with Vetericyn the "don't even think about raising chickens without it wonder spray". Goose-Goose is enjoying some feed mixed with home-made yogurt for probiotics to help her heal.  Aren't chickens wonderful funny creatures?

That's all folks! Hope you enjoyed this little science lesson. I have found it very helpful to keep literature handy on chicken keeping just for such emergencies and if what I have shared helps you help your chickens then hooray! Until next time...

Happy farming everyone!

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